How to Use a Straight Razor Part 1: It All Begins With Honing

How to Use a Straight Razor Part 1: It All Begins With Honing

For men, there is no better way to get a fabulously smooth shave than by using a straight razor. Like so many other worthwhile endeavors, learning how to use a straight razor takes time and patience. Like riding a bicycle, it may take persistence to get the hang of wet-shaving, but the skill will last forever once you learn it. The first thing you must realize is that nicks and cuts are inevitable while you are learning. This is normal and shouldn’t deter you from embarking on your journey to the best shaving experience of your life.

“Stropping” by Bob Richmond on flickr

Your path to shaving starts with ensuring the razor’s edge is as sharp as necessary to remove the hair as close to the face as possible. To accomplish this, you will need to use a combination of strops and hones. You may choose between artificial or natural hones. Visit What Makes Artificial Hones Different to learn more about the synthetic alternatives available, or check out Know Your Hones: Natural or Artificial? for more details. Now you are ready to begin the process of sharpening your blade. Like shaving with the straight razor itself, your honing routine will eventually become second nature as you become more experienced and efficient. Practice is the only method of perfecting your technique.

Honing the edge of your blade is the perfect time to slow your pace, relax and enjoy yourself. This is a procedure that is best done slowly. Don’t think of it as a race to the finish line, or you may make errors that damage the blade and require even more time to correct. Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions when it comes to wetting your hone. Some may require a splash of water while others may require soaking. Natural hones typically require water while artificial stones typically do not. That’s why it is so important to check the specifications of the particular you are using before you begin.

When you begin honing, make sure the edge and back of the straight razor blade remains in constant contact with your hone, and always use a light touch and an even pressure while you are stroking the blade. Leading with the edge of the blade, slide the razor up the hone while keeping the edge and back of the blade in contact. At the end of your first stroke, simply roll the blade so it faces the opposite direction without removing it from the stone or allowing it to lose contact. Repeat this process of up and down strokes approximately 10 times before checking the edge for sharpness. Once you have achieved the edge you are looking for, you can finish off the process with a strop. A leather strop will help shape and smooth the edge in preparation for shaving.

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